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Mechanics: Designing effective mechanics

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aljovin
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Joined: 12/31/1969

I'm new to board game design. I have an idea of a theme I want to address.

My question is how does one design a mechanic for a game?

hawaiiirish
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Joined: 01/21/2009
Mechanics: Designing effective mechanics

How does one go about writing a book? The answer is by studying authors and writings to see what is good and bad. (At the end of the day, a good editor is helpful - but, I digress ... )

What mechanic do you need? Movement, combat, aquisition, trading? You need to be a little more specific.

I recently read an article about game programming. Although we deal with boardgames here, the same sense of "programming" is required when designing a game. The author of the article said the he liked to start with a small problem (for instance, combat) and work through it. Then, he would add movement, resources, etc. In that way, each "problem" becomes a small goal in which he can work, perfect and acheive.

Tell us what you are thinking about working on - and I'll bet you'll get some great ideas from this community.

- Hawaii Irish

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Mechanics: Designing effective mechanics

Welcome to the group, and to game design! I started a thread a while back on how to take a theme and turn it into a game idea; that thread is here.

Mechanics are simply the rules and systems by which players interact with the game's components and each other. So, for example, the "roll and move" mechanic in Monopoly refers to the process by which players roll a die and move their piece the indicated number of spaces.

A good starting point for you might just be to play some games, and try to emulate ones that you like. As you get some practice in designing, coming up with your own mechanics will be no problem.

Good luck, and again, welcome.

-Jeff

Jpwoo
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Joined: 03/26/2009
Mechanics: Designing effective mechanics

Quote:
'm new to board game design. I have an idea of a theme I want to address.

My question is how does one design a mechanic for a game?

!!!

This is a big question.

You ultimately want the mechnics to refelect the theme.

If your game is about zoning suburbs, you might want to consider tile laying over random dice rolls.

A game about big music companies tracking and killing pirates might want a hidden movement plan over trick taking.

Take a few minutes and write down everything about your theme, all the important aspects of it, the things that make it unique. Then try to imagine what about your game would capture the same feel.

aljovin
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Mechanics: Designing effective mechanics

Thanks to all your replies, I guess I'm back to the drawing board! :)

Actually, I wanted the question to be generic, more as a "I need a mechanic to .... What are the things I need to create a mechanic"

I've played a couple of games, Ticket To Ride, Tikal, Carcassonne, etc...

I'll need to think more about what I want to acheive and get back with a good description of my needs.

Jeff, your post is a good start for me, I'll use that, it will help me at least define what I need to concentrate on.

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Mechanics: Designing effective mechanics

aljovin wrote:
I'm new to board game design. I have an idea of a theme I want to address.

My question is how does one design a mechanic for a game?

That's a big question, and cannot really be answered easily. Creating a mechanic is, I think, mostly re-using what other designers have come up with, slightly altering parameters and variables, and using submechanics in different combinations. Only very rarely you will have that creative spark of genius that let's you come up with something utterly original.

It is a good idea to play a lot of different games and experience different mechanics, which you can re-use in your own game. The more mechanics you know, the more original your own game can be, because you know what has and has not been done before, and you can make more original combinations of sub-mechanics.

If you really don't know where to begin, then set yourself some limits. Perhaps you want to make a game with a specific set of components, for a specific target group. Do you want to make a simple game, or a more elaborate game? What should the playing time be? Etc.

Good luck!

CardboardAddict
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Mechanics: Designing effective mechanics

I don't really understand your question. How to come
up with a mechanic isn't different from how to come up
with any other sort of idea.
I don't really know, so correct me if I'm wrong, but it
looks like you've only played the few games everybody
has played en liked. Maybe you just haven't played enough
games yet (or have read about games... that usually works)
to be inspired with mechanics. You could say: hmm... I like
Settlers of Catan and want to build my own Civilisation building
type of game. You look at Settlers and see: (for instance) there's
to much luck in it: I'll kill the dice rolls...
Hmm... how would I replace those by a resources system that
doesn't affect the amount of luck in my game? Than you start
looking at other games, 'borrow' ideas, be inspired to new ones.
That's the way a beginner should handle this, I guess. At least
it's how I started.

aljovin
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Mechanics: Designing effective mechanics

CardboardAddict wrote:
I don't really understand your question. How to come
up with a mechanic isn't different from how to come up
with any other sort of idea.
I don't really know, so correct me if I'm wrong, but it
looks like you've only played the few games everybody
has played en liked. Maybe you just haven't played enough
games yet (or have read about games... that usually works)
to be inspired with mechanics. You could say: hmm... I like
Settlers of Catan and want to build my own Civilisation building
type of game. You look at Settlers and see: (for instance) there's
to much luck in it: I'll kill the dice rolls...
Hmm... how would I replace those by a resources system that
doesn't affect the amount of luck in my game? Than you start
looking at other games, 'borrow' ideas, be inspired to new ones.
That's the way a beginner should handle this, I guess. At least
it's how I started.

It may be that I haven't played enough games, but I feel I've played a good variety (I'll be the first to admit, I still have quite a few types of games to try out, especially wargames!). Maybe my question should be rephrased to: "Now that I have a theme I want to address, how do I start?"

With the previous answers, I feel that I need to get back to evaluate what I really want to accomplish. My game is aimed to occasionnal gamers, and in a specific niche market (Christian games). So far, the only Christian games I've seen are either bible trivia, or not really fun. The playing time should be between 30-60 minutes.

At this point, I feel I need to try out a few more games that have a general resemblance to what I'm thinking. I guess my mind isn't completely set on how I want to proceed. I like the Action Points from Tikal (and other games, like Dungeon Twister) I'd like to have random events that can change the game a bit, so that the strategy expert will not always win, but I don't want it to be a roll and move type of game, so strategy is important.

I like the cooperative type like Lord of the Rings (by Reiner Knizia) or Shadows over Camelot. But that will be for another game.

For now, I'm back to my drawing board (after the tax season, although, this could be a good mechanic ;) )

Hedge-o-Matic
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Joined: 07/30/2008
Mechanics: Designing effective mechanics

Hmm... Bible theme... what might be some good mechanics to think about?

Well, having never played a bible themed game (for good reasons), I'd have to say that you've got a good idea of where they seem to go wrong. Like most "games" that seek to instruct, these offerings are textbooks or sermons in a different form. I'd suggest you allow the game to work as a game, with a whole new level of understanding and enjoyment possible, but not necessary.

First off, I'd say you should decide if you want to go the biblical route, or the contemporary route. By biblical, I mean referring to the events and timelines of the Gospels, and by contemporary, I mean attempts to navigate the challenges of the game effectively by following the moral examples proposed in the Gospels. Very different goals, and very, very few, if any, have attempted the latter.

I'd suggest the second type, since you've got a far better chance at making something unique and interesting. The big challenge here is to cloak a subject that is inherently abstract in concrete game terms.

One thought would be to have two equally valid victory routes, one material, one spiritual. The materialist would "win" by accumulation of weath and power, while spiritual victory would be achived by helping the other players. Sound strange? It is, but it might make an interesting enough game for people to want to play twice. The secret would be to hide Christian teachings in the mechanisms that allow the spiritual player to win.

For example, the spiritual player (SP, hereafter) might actively lose points for every player whose material wealth is lower than the SP's own spiritual wealth. As their spiritual wealth increassed, they'd become more concerned with the material well-being of others.

Similarly, SP's VPs may be influenced by the low-end spiritual wealth of the other players, making them want to raise the average spiritual awareness of the other players.

The MP could just as efectlively win the game, through a steady accumulation of stuff, without referring to the material status of others. But such selfishness would preclude spiritual growth, leaving the MPs to fight amongst themselves. If only a single MP can be eligable to win, this could be a problem.

The game could end when the players all have a certain total spiritual and material wealth. Multiple players could win spiritually, but allowing a single MP winner (assuming they have the points total) could really add nastiness to the upper levels of MP tactics, and avail them nothing in the end.

Let the players be ruthless, if they want, just make the game demonstrate how powerless this route can make them, regardless of their wealth. I'd suggest to allow the players to make the choices of how best to play. Don't dictate their strategies by having the rules one-sided toward obvious, trite depictions of Christian values.

Other moral values could be similarly abstracted in this way. The game could be played by anyone, with religious symbology removed, but, when pointed out, the game becomes allegorical, and the actions of the players symbols for actions in real life. Thus, you get the best of both worlds: the attention people bring to bear on things they find fun, and a lesson hidden within it.

But I'm just musing, a bit. Take or leave whatever you want from this.

Good luck!

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Mechanics: Designing effective mechanics

aljovin wrote:
My game is aimed to occasionnal gamers, and in a specific niche market (Christian games). So far, the only Christian games I've seen are either bible trivia, or not really fun. The playing time should be between 30-60 minutes.

At this point, I feel I need to try out a few more games that have a general resemblance to what I'm thinking. I guess my mind isn't completely set on how I want to proceed. I like the Action Points from Tikal (and other games, like Dungeon Twister) I'd like to have random events that can change the game a bit, so that the strategy expert will not always win, but I don't want it to be a roll and move type of game, so strategy is important.

If interested, you might take a look at my game Disciples , which was discussed a while back in our "Game Design Workshop". I had some of the same design goals that you've mentioned.

The latest rulebook is here: [url=www.bgdf.com/files/My_Uploads/jwarrend/disciples_rules_8.0.doc]Rulebook[/url.

While I do believe there is a market for Christian games, there may not, at the present time, be a viable path to publication that runs through an existing publisher. That's not to say one couldn't self-publish such a game, or that even if it was only produced for family and friends it wouldn't be a worthwhile venture.

I for one would certainly be interested in hearing more about your idea.

Best of luck,

Jeff

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